A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program usually takes two years to complete. However, there are a number of different accelerated options available that can speed up the MSN program completion time to as little as one year.
Accelerated Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) to MSN
Students who have not yet begun their nursing training or who are still at the undergraduate level might consider an accelerated BSN to MSN program. The BSN normally takes three to four years to complete, but an accelerated program has the student get through the bachelor's program in as little as one year and then immediately begin a standard MSN program of one to two years in length.
Students are usually required to have already completed a bachelor's degree in something other than nursing to enter these programs. The completion of general education requirements and other classes in the prior bachelor's program is what allows the BSN portion of the program to be pared down to just the essential nursing classes. The prerequisite bachelor's degree doesn't necessarily have to be in a specific discipline, but these programs often ask for certain related coursework to have been completed (such as anatomy and physiology, statistics and certain natural science classes).
The BSN portion of the program covers fundamental nursing topics such as the foundations of nursing, population health and pharmacology. Students also usually have ongoing clinical practicums at both the BSN and MSN level. When students reach the MSN level in later semesters, they often have the option of selecting electives in a specialty nursing area.
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Direct / Alternate Entry MSN for Non-Nurses
If you already hold a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing, another option to look into is 'direct entry' or 'alternate entry' into an MSN program. This is a widely available option that allows you to immediately begin the MSN program without obtaining the BSN first.
These programs require a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in a subject other than nursing. Programs do not always have a GPA or GRE score requirement, but some do require the student has earned a B or better in the core prerequisite courses (such as anatomy and microbiology). Naturally, higher scores are better, but other factors are considered equally. Other common items required for admission include a personal essay, resume and letters of recommendation.
Students either skip the BSN course material or have it integrated into a standard MSN program of about 1.5 to 2 years in length. Courses that students may encounter include health assessment, organizational leadership and patient safety.
ASN/RN to MSN Accelerated Track
If you've already completed an Associates in Nursing (ASN) and tested for your registered nurse (RN) license, there are combined BSN and MSN programs that will give you advanced standing and speed up the completion time. These programs generally allow students to take some extra courses during their bachelor's program that serve as equivalencies for certain MSN courses, shaving some time off of the MSN program.
Admissions requirements will depend on how the program is structured. If you're entering a BSN program, you will likely need to have an associate's degree in nursing and an unencumbered RN license to qualify.
Students proceed through a standard BSN program, possibly with some MSN courses included to save overall time. They conclude the program by taking the needed MSN courses, finishing up with both the BSN and MSN.
As long as you have some sort of undergraduate degree already under your belt, there is a way to speed up your MSN program time. It's just a question of which option best fits your personal circumstances and your previous education.